In the Corinth Canal

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25 November 2009

In the Corinth Canal

It’s not everyday that the entire crew is on deck.  Even Julien, the chief mechanic has abandoned his post: this morning we are entering the Corinth Canal.  A trench 6 kilometers long dug out by man… it seems very narrow on our charts!

Tara enters carefully.  The vessel is 10 meters wide so there’s only 5 meters on either side of the Tara.  At the helm, Hervé keeps his eyes on the prow.  The blue water appears a glacial mint green against the yellow chalk  of the canal walls.  Tara threads its way between the cliffs of the canal walls- a vertiginous vision. 5O meters above us a multitude of bridges cross the canal.  Buses, cars, and trucks speed across. The occasional tourists wave to us- tiny points in the distance far above our heads. Down here it’s quiet, no one says a word.

The Corinth Canal saves us a trip around the peninsula of Peloponnesia.  A precious shortcut of 400 kilometers.  Only vessels less than 10,000 tons can thread their way through the narrow passage opened in 1893.  Almost 10 years were needed to cut across the chalky isthmus and it was the last of many attempts made since ancient times.   In the 7th century, ships were transported overland between the Gulf of Saronica and the Aegean Sea.  The were pulled with chariots on a paved road across the isthmus. According to legend, Nero was the first to have imagined a canal and inaugurated the project with a golden shovel! His successor abandoned the project as too expensive.  It was not until 1882 that a French company ” la Société Internationale du Canal Maritime de Corinthe” succeeded in cutting the passage that exists today.

Tara passes between the silent walls, witness to a tumultuous past. Rémi, our official artist, has just enough time to sketch a watercolor before we reach the end of the canal and find ourselves in the blinding sun that bathes the Aegean Sea. My voyage on Tara ends at Athens with this magnificent vision. However, the crew will continue with new scientific adventures, new explorations and from next week on you will follow the voyage through the eyes and words of David!

Thanks Tara and Have a Good Trip!
 
Sacha Bollet